Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Creating "Good Cheer"

Advertising can only do so much. If the advertising brings people to you, you better treat them right. Here's a few tips from MarketingProfs.com:

I Just Want to Say Thank You

Retailers know that offering customers a little something extra with their purchases is always a crowd-pleaser. Unexpected better deal, happy customer.

Now comes research that digs a bit deeper into relationship marketing (RM) to explore the hidden power of customer gratitude—for both short-term and long-term seller benefit.

These researchers monitored customers in a preset "clothing store" situation. A "sales person" offered help above-and-beyond the norm—a cup of coffee, extra assistance, valuable information—to different customers at different times.

Based on results, the researchers concluded that customer gratitude can play a role in purchase decisions when specific conditions are met. "Gratitude for an RM investment increases as the customer's perception of: (a) the seller's free will, (b) the benevolence of the seller's motives for the investment, and (c) the risk to the seller in making the investment increases, and (d) as the customer's need for the benefit received increases," they report.

They offer advice for marketers based on these findings. Among their tips:

The intention behind the gift is critical to the activation of gratitude. "Companies should avoid benefits that appear to provide personal gain for the salesperson," they advise. (Instead, think of a Macy's employee sending a customer to another store for a Christmas gift it doesn't stock.)

A seller can leverage RM investments by providing a benefit when the customer's need is the highest and the benefit provides the most perceived value. (Think of a spontaneous flight upgrade for a loyal flyer at holiday time.)

Sellers should give customers opportunities to reciprocate soon after providing them with an RM benefit. This "takes advantage of their high levels of gratitude ... and leads to cycles of reciprocation," the researchers report. (Think of Macy's mailing a 15% discount coupon to that grateful customer.)

The Po!nt: Surprise them. As the holiday shopping season approaches, consider giving employees the option of offering small perks to customers when they feel it appropriate. You could reap short- and long-term benefits based on customer gratitude.

Source: "The Role of Customer Gratitude in Relationship Marketing," by Robert W. Palmatier, Cheryl Burke Jarvis, Jennifer R. Bechkoff and Frank R. Kardes. Journal of Marketing 2009.

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